Saturday, 29 September 2012

Wenger picks Vermaelen and Koscielny -Podolski loves Cazorla -Walcott to start?

Morning Gooners.

Normally our tests in the league don't come much bigger than playing Chelsea. And this fact tells us a lot about what we need to know about this afternoon's game: Over the past 33 league matches between Arsenal and Chelsea, Chelsea have only won when they have fielded Didier Drogba.

Last season's home game against them was a 0-0, but who could forget the 5-3 at Stamford Bridge last October. Drogba didn't play in either game and now he's left, we've certainly got a chance to ensure we take three points without having that mental block when he's up against us.

I think we've got a huge chance of winning this afternoon. I've been so impressed with the way we've started the season and this is Chelsea's first big test away from home this season. We've got every right to feel we can win the game going by what we saw last weekend at Eastlands.

For me, the most important department within the team will be the midfield. If we can get Diaby playing like he did at Anfield, Arteta playing as he always does and Cazorla taking hold of the game, I believe we'll win the game.

While the midfield is very important, I believe that the team ethic of defending as a unit has had huge positive implications on the team's fortunes so far this season. If we can continue where we left off against Manchester City, then I see no reason why we can't win.

The manager though does have one huge decision to make. And that's who starts in the heart of our defence. Captain Thomas Vermaelen is fit again after missing last weekend's match with flu, so does Wenger bring him straight back into the side and if he does that who out of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny finds themselves on the substitutes bench?

I would normally believe that Koscielny is naturally better against nimble and tricky forwards but the outstanding performances Mertesacker has displayed against Liverpool and Manchester City says that his reading of the game is equally important.

However with many games this season, I wouldn't be surprised if the big German was given a rest this afternoon. He's the only one out of the three who has played every minute so far this season.

The other two questions regarding team selection is who plays up front and on the right of our attacking three. I think Gervinho will remain at the pinnacle of our attack and I wouldn't be surprised to see Theo Walcott handed his first start since the opening game of the season. He has a good record against this afternoon's opposition.

All the players are up for it. They know how important it is to win.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain said:
"Chelsea are a great team with fantastic players, but, at the same time, we are ­confident in our own abilities and we will play our own game – the Arsenal way." 
While Lukas Podolski said:
"We are looking forward to facing Chelsea.  
"Chelsea have played five matches and got 13 points, a good start. This is a derby. We must fight."
It will be important to get  another win at home. The manager has highlighted the importance of winning at the Grove and how we'll maintain our title chances by making the ground a fortress.

Wenger said:

"If we do well at home against the strong teams, it will of course have a big impact on our chances in the league. 
"We have played one [big team] where we got some belief, against Manchester City away. 
"Saturday it is another one, but it is a different one because we are at home."
I love games against the bigger teams at the Grove. You know it's an important match when you're standing for the whole 90 minutes.

There are a number of good interviews around today. John Cross of the Daily Mirror has spoken to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. While Matt Lawton of the Daily Mail and Charlie Wyett of The Sun have interviewed Lukas "I love Santi" Podolski.

And Saturday wouldn't be complete without reading Amy Lawrence writing about the Arsenal in The Guardian.

That's it for today. I'll see you at the Grove. Until tomorrow.

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